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  • Writer's pictureBenoit Hardy-Vallée

The Future of chatGPT: What's next for Generative AI and the way we work?

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By now, you probably heard about ChatGPT. If you've been using it, you may feel that something significant has occurred. ChatGPT may not be the first chatbot, but it is the first to reach this level of insight and creativity. For those who remember, it may feel like the first time you used Google or an iPhone –there is a "before" and an "after" in terms of technology, a “tipping point” as an HBR article labelled it. As someone on Reddit puts it: “I feel like I am 16 years old again, starting up my 56k baud modem for the first time, connecting to a free internet trial by AOL.” (u/switchdance on ChatGPT subreddit).

ChatGPT in a nutshell

In case you missed it, here are 3 fundamental things you should know about ChatGPT:

  1. ChatGPT is a variant of the GPT-3 language model developed by OpenAI that is specifically designed for generating human-like text in real-time conversation.

  2. ChatGPT can carry out a wide range of conversational tasks, including answering questions, providing information, and engaging in natural dialogue with humans. It can do this by leveraging the large amount of data it has been trained on, which allows it to generate text that is coherent, relevant, and appropriate to the context of the conversation.

  3. ChatGPT is important because it represents a major advance in the field of natural language processing (NLP) and has the potential to revolutionize how humans and machines interact. It could be used in a variety of applications, such as chatbots, virtual assistants, and customer service platforms, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communication. It could also have broader societal implications, such as enabling more natural and seamless communication between humans and AI systems in various domains, including education, healthcare, and entertainment.

(The bullet points were generated by ChatGPT, while the rest of the text was created by a human – me)

Within 5 days, ChatGPT reached its one-millionth user, making it much faster than other popular products and services such as Kickstarter (30 months), Airbnb (30 as well), Twitter (24), and Facebook (10). The level of enthusiasm for this is almost on par with that of Pokemon Go, which reached 10 million downloads within 7 days.

ChatGPT's capabilities, including writing college-level essays, summarizing complex content, writing stories, and writing and debugging code, are surprising and impressive. This is because we have not seen anything like it before. While it is not omniscient, as it has only been trained on data up until 2021, it can still do a lot with ease and creativity.

Just to illustrate the point on coding, a computer science teacher had ChatGPT evaluate student submissions for an assignment, and commented: “the AI’s feedback almost exactly mirrors my own, in fact, it sees mistakes in the code that I missed.”

Personally, here are a few things I have done with ChatGPT recently (both in English and French):

  • Write a story for children and generate ideas for illustrations – so we co-created (me, my daughters and ChatGPT) a short children's book).

  • Create a few kettlebell workouts and display them in a table format

  • Find new upbeat music for running

  • Find ideas for things to do with kids during a visit to a nearby city (yes I could have searched it online, but I got a nice little paragraph with all the information I needed)

  • Get recipe and dinner ideas

  • Summarize a document

  • List the top 10 takeaways from a book I have been curious about

  • Rewrite content from a transcript of a webinar to make it clearer

  • Express some ideas in writing more clearly and precisely by using an active voice.

  • Find SEO keywords and improve the description for my podcast; find potential guests and topics for the podcast as well.

  • Do fun and silly tasks such as writing a Shakespeare sonnet about the absurdity of social media or creating a rap song about consulting.

After ChatGPT was released in December, various online forums and communities emerged where people shared their experiences using ChatGPT for a range of purposes, such as writing books, starting businesses, and creating websites. APIs, integrations, and workarounds are developed by a growing community of users and enthusiasts.

Generative AI and artificial imagination

ChatGPT is part of a new wave of technologies called Generative AI (2022 was the year where it went mainstream). From text to image to music, these systems are trained on a large corpus of data and are given the ability to generate new, unknown, yet meaningful output. But let’s hear the expert (ChatGPT):

Generative AI models are trained on large datasets and use machine learning algorithms to analyze the patterns and relationships within the data. They can then use this knowledge to generate new, unique content that is similar in style or content to the input data. Some examples of generative AI models include GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) and GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks).

Take, for example, it’s hard to believe that this person does not exist:

Yet she doesn’t. These are just pixels generated and organized following rules that make it look like a picture of a real person – and whether it is text or image, this is a key point: the systems are good are showing things that look real, but it doesn’t mean that they are.

To see what ChatGPT, a generative AI system, can do, you can give it prompts about potential visuals and see how it responds. You can then use its responses in a generative AI system for illustrations like Midjourney. For example, you can give ChatGPT a prompt like "describe a futuristic office" and see what it comes up with. If you've also trained ChatGPT to describe photography, you can ask it to "imagine a futuristic office" and see the result. Based on a prompt about photography and a request to imagine a futuristic office, ChatGPT generated this:

A futuristic office with sleek and modern design elements. Photographed by Andreas Gursky. Sony Alpha a7R IV. Aperture f/11, ISO 100, 1/250 shutter speed. Studio light. Stylish, detailed, HD, 8k. --ar 3:2

Once this is fed to Midjourney, it can create this:

ChatGPT also generated prompts such as:

“Imagine a colourful, futuristic scene of AI and humans working together in harmony, with sleek and advanced technology integrated into their daily tasks. The shot is expertly composed by the renowned artist, Salvador Dali, with a dreamlike and surrealist style. The lighting is soft and ethereal, casting a warm glow over the scene. The image is cinematic, stylish, and full of intricate details, presented in stunning 8k resolution. The composition is balanced and symmetrical, with a sense of movement and energy. This award-winning image is a vision of the future of work, where technology and humanity coexist in a harmonious and productive partnership.”

Which Midjourney rendered as:

With or without ChatGPT, Generative AI art is a fascinating, creative use of AI. Look at the visuals Midjourney generated from this prompt: a futuristic office with AI, robots, automation and employee. It looks like digital art, with high contrast and colour:

This is not too different from asking ChatGPT to create a Shakespeare sonnet about the absurdity of social media:

You still need imagination and an understanding of the language of colour, lighting, styles, contrast, etc. if you want to have a meaningful visual outcome. The broader your visual culture is, the more creative you can be – and this is a general point about Generative AI; it forces us to develop conceptual skills if we want to use it for tactical tasks.

ChatGPT and the new user experience: prompt and collate

ChatGPT offers a more engaging and efficient way to find information. Instead of presenting multiple lists, submenus, and advertisements, it provides users with only the necessary information in a Q&A form. This feels like direct access to information rather than a tedious process of searching through multiple links and evaluating which ones might contain relevant answers to your questions.

The potential impact of ChatGPT on the search engine industry is significant, with reports of a “code red” being issued to Google employees and rumors of Microsoft integrating ChatGPT in Bing. You can check to get a sense of what a search engine coupled with Generative AI can do.

The free version of ChatGPT does not browse the web and is therefore unable to stay up-to-date on current events. For example, it does not "know" that Pele is no longer alive. But imagine the potential benefits of using ChatGPT with access to all of the corporate information within a company, generating for instance a new marketing plan based on past input.

As the philosopher Luciano Floridi said, about GPT-3 (which ChatGPT is based on) “its availability represents the arrival of a new age in which we can now mass produce good and cheap semantic artifacts.” The use of ChatGPT and other AI-powered writing tools may lead to a blurring of the lines between human- and machine-written texts and may require updates to copyright regulations and prize eligibility rules. Therefore some AI detectors already exist to help decide if a text is a human or AI production. That distinction, however, will lose its sense, because increasingly there will be a dynamic exchange between humans and AI – prompting the AI to generate some texts, assemble, change, and re-submit to ensure clarity and consistency. Floridi, again:

“People whose jobs still consist in writing will be supported, increasingly, by tools such as GPT-3. Forget the mere cut & paste, they will need to be good at prompt & collate. Because they will have to learn the new editorial skills required to shape, intelligently, the prompts that deliver the best results, and to collect and combine (collate) intelligently the results obtained, e.g. when a system like GPT-3 produces several valuable texts, which must be amalgamated together.

Note the emphasis on “intelligently” – this is real human intelligence, augmented by a new creative (albeit sometimes mind-blowing) tool.

Prompting is a skill that can be learned and improved upon, as demonstrated by the detailed instructions provided at ChatGPT can be prompted to perform a variety of tasks, such as acting as a coach, a Linux terminal, an Excel spreadsheet, a travel guide, or an interviewer.

The future

The text-based ChatGPT system is already quite intelligent, but the upcoming GPT4, expected to be released in the spring, is expected to be even smarter. It is possible that GPT4 will have non-text-based channels and may show significant improvements in its memory (remembering and using information from previous conversations) and summarization abilities

I don’t think we fully grasp how this technology can change how we work. A few observations though:

  • No, it will not take anybody’s job; it is a fantastic tool that can help with a variety of writing tasks, including coding, marketing copy, and storytelling. It is not conscious in any sense of the term, it does not “know” anything” and can be a confident fabulist because it is good at triggering our perception of intelligence (just like we can sometimes see faces in clouds).

  • As you use it more, you'll discover more and more ways to leverage it. Productive use of these tools will require knowledge of which tasks to automate and which content to generate or optimize, as well as how to provide effective prompts and collate information.

  • Just like a GPS or spell check, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of the task at hand and not rely solely on the system. While some output from ChatGPT may be generic, with careful prompts and human input, the final product can be a high-quality blend of human and AI work. ChatGPT can iteratively help a (still needed!) human develop and refine ideas, vision, aspirations, guidelines and original thoughts.

  • Once the system is available locally, within a live, closed environment, we will see an acceleration of knowledge work. For instance, it could allow companies to quickly summarize customer feedback surveys into actionable insights they can use in product development – and immediately visualize the new product. It can be a smart research and writing assistant.

  • Finally, when large technology platforms will integrate ChatGPT (or GPT4)-type tools in their systems, we will see a new “Cambrian explosion” of novel ideas – and not only from large incumbents but a breed of new startups will help us rethink humans & AI collaborative work. There is already a lot of investment coming to the Generative AI market. Think about the potential of a Generative AI system within the Microsoft suite of products to help with spreadsheets, presentations, write-ups and emails.

I believe that systems like ChatGPT will have an important impact on the knowledge economy by bringing true knowledge back to the forefront. While many jobs still involve data manipulation or transactions, using these systems requires a strategic understanding of what you're trying to achieve and expertise in the relevant field. For example, you can't productively ask a system to write a good marketing strategy without understanding customer behaviour, craft an RFP for an ERP without understanding the procurement process and ERP projects, or write a good job description without understanding the job. These systems will allow us to delegate more tasks to them so that we can focus on thinking and curation, and hopefully make better use of cognitive capabilities and our time.

(And yes, there are a lot of risks and limitations – ChatGPT can be highly convincing and incorrect at the same time; there is also the potential for biases to be present in the technology, and it could be harmful if it falls into the wrong hands without any restriction; I do not neglect that, my purpose here is to first envision the opportunities).

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